i was a student at u.t. when battle was hired in 70 and was there through the 72 season (his glory years; seems like they went 10-1, 9-2, and 9-2). i followed them religiously even though i lived in swc country by then. i always thought that battle got less than a fair chance, but there were two things he couldn't contend with, first, his recruiting was terrible, and second, the fact that a vol legend (johnny majors) had just won a national championship at pittsburgh. it wasn't so much that the vol faithful hated battle (such as what kiffen is building for himself in l.a.) as it was that visions of more national championships were dancing in their eyes. well, they got johnny back and suffered through seventeen years of a higher level of mediocrity. i've always wondered what battle could have done had he got the recruiting turned around. (hard to believe: the boy wonder is 71 years old!)
New Alabama athletic director Bill Battle ran a pair of companies worth billions. He played for Paul “Bear” Bryant in Tuscaloosa. He was friends with the man he recently replaced, Mal Moore (who passed away on Saturday). But he was also an SEC football coach at one time.
From 1970 through 1976, Battle coached at Bama’s rival, Tennessee. Hired to replace Doug Dickey, Battle was the youngest coach in America — just 28 — when he took over in Knoxville. He had plenty of early success, but his record declined sharply in the few years leading up to his firing. Still, most coaches don’t post a 59-22-2 record and then leave the game forever. The Ron Zooks of the world start over again at lesser programs. The Mike Archers become assistants.
But Battle walked away after his Vols saw their win total drop from 11 to 10 to eight to seven to six during his tenure. Why the exit?
“We had some really good teams at Tennessee and a few that weren’t that good. I decided well before my time there ended that I didn’t want to be a 65-year old coach. Now, I didn’t want to get out when I did. But my kids were growing older and I wanted to have time with them, and I wanted to try the business end of athletics. I didn’t know if I would be out of it for a year and want to get back in. I had some friends in coaching who were that way, who were miserable when they weren’t coaching. I had some chances to get back in, especially in that first year after I finished at Tennessee.
But I had a great opportunities with Larry Striplin. I enjoyed what we were trying to build. Larry was a dynamic man, a smart man, and we experienced great growth. It was a great experience for me and I decided to stay with that, to stay out of coaching. Managing a business is a lot different than coaching, but there are parallels. You’ve got to get great talent, you’ve got to work hard, you’ve got to stay ahead of the competition. So I loved business. But I do want to say I had a wonderful experience at Tennessee, wouldn’t take anything for it.”
Striplin hired Battle to run a window company for him in Selma, Alabama. While working with Striplin, Battle developed the vision for his own business, Collegiate Licensing Company, which has become a billion dollar operation under current owners IMG.
Having been fired as a coach, Battle was asked in a quick Q&A by TideSports.com if he might have to pull the trigger on any Alabama coaches in the near future. “We will take the blueprint we have in place, we will meet with the executive staff members who have the responsibility for each sport, and we will see what we are doing well and what we need to improve,” the ex-coach said. “And if there are issues, or opportunities that we are missing, we will deal with those things. Over the next few months, we will do a lot of that.”